Discovering Sicily Part 1: Big Cities

Are you a nature lover? Sicily also offers natural walking tours over the mountain Etna. This gigantic active volcano of Europe lies in the north east part of the island having 135 recorded eruptions in history. Etna’s last eruption happened on 16 March 2017, and it caused the injury of 10 people. Mountain Etna has even been mentioned in Greek mythology, the “God of Fire” lives on the steep valleys of the mountain.

Sicily is the biggest island of Italy and also the Mediterranean Sea, having a sub-tropical climate. The size of the island is around 25 thousand km2 having a population of 5 million people. The cultural variation comes from the island’s’ rich history that in the previous centuries, the island has been home to Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, Surveillance, and Spanish.

The first Greek colonization started in the 8th century BC and lasted until 3rd century BC. When it became a very first Roman province in 212 BC, there were many theaters and temples ready to be used. The Romans did not have to construct anymore but restored the old ones.

My Sicily Tour

I visited Sicily in late July. Toured around the island in a group with a guide. The weather was warm, it was around 30 degrees, but there was an authentic atmosphere. I enjoyed every single day of my journey, wandered around the lovely streets, tasted from the unforgettably delicious cuisine of Sicily. There was a great atmosphere, blue sky meets the sea and sometimes too warm, especially when visiting ancient cities. If I go for a next time, it is better to plan a trip around September, or spring time.

Taste'n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities
Taste’n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities

It was my first time that I participated in a professionally organized round tour. I am delighted to have experienced this journey. I have seen many places, gained information about the history and also about the cultural structure of the city.

The tour lasted for 12 days in total, most of the days I woke up around 7:00 am, sometimes it was more intense than a typical working day. Overall, it was an enjoyable yet a tiring experience. I need another vacation to recover from this one :). However, I have met with wonderful people and seen many places, it compensated for all my tiredness.

With the group, we have completely toured around Sicily, the starting and ending destination was Catania airport. During our visit, we have seen many places, historical sites, big cities and also small cozy towns.  We have visited the cities in the order of Acitrezza, Catania, Syracuse, Roman Villa del Casale, Agrigento, Mazara del Vallo, Erice, Segesta, Palermo, Cefalù, Tindari, Aeolische Islands, Taormina.

Every city that I visited was lovely, and it was captivating in different aspects. For example, I am impressed by the center of Syracuse. Norman Cathedrals of Palermo, the panoramic view from the Castle of Erice. I would like to travel to Sicily again in future and spend more time in the center of Syracuse and Cefalu. Here is some information about the main cities of Sicily.

Palermo

Palermo is the heart of Sicily, a crossing place of history and modern times. There has been the capital of the city for centuries since the Arabs took over the ruling in the 9th century. There you can see prominent examples of mixed architecture style on the same buildings.

Taste'n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities
Taste’n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities

The cathedrals of Sicily are breathtaking. These monumental places are the greatest evidence of cross-cultural influence and integration. Plazza dei Normanni monastery is, a great example of the artwork. It is possible see byzantine mosaics topped by arab master artwork in it just looks impressive. There is the what I see open mindedness. World would be an awesome place if every culture could add the best parts and in the end awesome things would come out.

I remember Palermo from the remarkable cathedrals from the Norman times, each were monuments of its own. The most amazing ones for me were Piazzi Dei Normanni and the Cathedral in Monreale. I am amazed by the artwork that I have seen in these buildings. What I am especially impressed is the multi-cultural nature of the buildings.

Nomadic cathedrals in Palermo provide you opportunity of seeing the most impressive examples of Byzantine Mosaic artwork and Arab wood engraving in the same building and I find this combination a very precious as an interior decoration. This is the outcome of true open mindedness and I admire Normans for letting this happen.

Instead of destroying every single trace of the previous cultures, Normans decided to work with the best masters in the region. I think that these cathedrals are great examples for how great humankind create awesome work if they learn to with cultural diversity. It should be thought to kids during their primary school education.   

Some of the other famous attractions in Palermo are Cathedral, Porta Nuova, Palazzo Dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans), Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Teatro Politema and Monastery and Cyrpts of Capuchins (if you are not a sensitive person). I especially recommend to visit the Eremeti church which looks like Arab bathhouse or a mosque from outside. There is also another place which was constructed during the Norman times having finger traces of Arab masters.

Catania

Catania is the second biggest city having a population of 316 thousand residents. There is an important industrial zone of Mediterranean region, having a well-developed port. Besides its commercial power, the city is also a touristic destination thanks to its proximity to mountain Etna.

Taste'n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities
Taste’n Travel: Sicily Tour Big Cities

Catania had been a home to the civilians since the prehistoric times. A Roman colonization was established in the 3rd century BC. The city has been suffered from wars and natural disasters throughout the history and had to be rebuilt more than twice. In 1669, there was completely covered by the lava’s of Etna when it has erupted. In 1693, Catania was again corrupted by a catastrophic earthquake. Recently, it was destroyed heavily during World War 2.

Piazza del Duomo is the main square of Catania which faces the Cathedral on one side, City House from the another side. In the middle of the plaza, there is an Elephant Statue in beneath an Egyptian obelisk. The elephant is, made of lava stone in the 8th century, artwork from the Roman Sculpture G.B. Vaccarini.

Some of the other attractions in Catania are Roman Theatre, Roman Amphitheatre, Teatro Bellini, Castello Ursino and Porta Uzeda. During summer, Catania is hot as well as other Sicilian cities. So I recommend visiting the attractions early in the day or during the afternoon.

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